Saturday, June 4, 2011


A 24 year old from Kalispell, Montana, USA is a University of Montana student. She's a painter and a carpenter, an artist and an athlete. She's a student of computer science. & she's a transgender woman. She lives and volunteers and studies in Missoula.

She grew up in Kalispell. Her body was male but she never felt like a man, and before she started to transition, she tried to take her own life six times. The last time, she used a .50-caliber pistol.

"I stuck it in my mouth and it misfired," She said. "I honestly believe there's a reason I'm still here."

She didn't always know how to understand her feelings about who she was.

When she was 17 years old, she came out as a gay man. She threw herself into her studies and earned an associate degree and two bachelor degrees, one in electrical technology and another in wiring practices.

"I was at a point where I didn't want to accept my need to transition," she said.

She was busy and didn't have time to think about herself. Then, she graduated. Then, she lost her job.

"Suddenly, I had a lot of free time to myself and all of these feelings I had hidden away and dismissed came back," she said.

The incident with the pistol awakened her, and Sutherland took it as a sign that she needed to face the future. That or become a statistic, and she said suicide rates for transgender people are high.

As a last resort, she met with a counselor who works with the transgender community. There, she learned she was not alone, and that a woman as beautiful and amazing as her counselor had transitioned, too.

"I knew what I felt, but I didn't realize other people felt the way I felt," she said.

Sutherland, who had made plans for herself in case life didn't look up, said she left the counselor's office practically skipping. She was nearly certain she would transition.

The first time she came out as Bree, she still lived in Kalispell. A friend had done her makeup for a drag show in Missoula, and Sutherland remembers looking in the mirror and being more shocked than she'd ever been in her life.

"For the first time, I saw myself," she said. "I saw the person I wanted to be, and I felt nothing but utmost happiness."

She cried so much her mascara ran and her friend had to redo her makeup. She began living as a woman full time the day she moved to Missoula and found an apartment. She knew people could tell, but she didn't care.

That was Jan. 15, 2009. On the 20th, she started hormone replacement. On April 8, 2009, she got her name legally changed.

A year later, Sutherland has established herself as a leader and advocate for transgender people. She wants other people to find support more readily than she did, and she delights in the responsibility.

"I also have found a lot of joy in being able to help other individuals," she said.

She's on the board of the Western Montana Gay and Lesbian Community Center. She's the director of the Missoula Transgender Day of Recognition. She's launched the UM Gender Identity and Expression Resource Center and hopes to find space on campus for one of the largest transgender libraries in Montana.

She wanted to share her story because there's a lot of fear about the trans community, and many things people need to learn. Like this: The community estimates some 750 transgender people live in Missoula.

And this: Discrimination publicly doesn't take place a lot, but she's heard of countless cases difficult to prove where people were offered jobs until they had to show a driver's license identifying them as a sex not consistent with their gender identity.

"At that point, those offers were withdrawn almost immediately," She said.

Even so, She doesn't have any harsh words for people who disagree with her.

"I don't know their story, so I'm not going to judge them," she said.

She said she hopes the same from them. Other communities sometimes sacrifice trans people in such policies, and she said she's glad Missoula's proposed non-discrimination ordinance is inclusive.

More than anything, Sutherland said it will help educate people about issues the LGBT community faces and ensure basic human rights and equality for everyone.

"It's going to set a positive example for the entire state," she said - Anonymous

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